Loading 35mm into 120 Camera (Without Adapters) – By Andrea Bevacqua

I have been intrigued by the look of the sprocket holes with the actual photo, so I wanted to try to replicate it. It is a effect mostly used on colour images and it seems quite trendy at the moment. In order to achieve this look you need to own a camera which takes photos that are larger than 35mm cameras do. As such, one of the easier ways to do this is to load 35mm film in a medium format camera. This can be done in a couple of ways.

One of the ways this can be done is by loading a 35mm roll of film with a pair of plastic adapters that slot onto the top and bottom of the film cartridge allowing it to slot into the slot where the 120 spool would go. These adapters are quite easy to find online, and if you have a 3d printer can even be printed yourself. You can see how these adapters are used on Canny Cameras here, and on 35mmc here.

The other option – which is what I have done – is to take the paper from an already exposed roll of 120 film and load it up with a 35mm film.

Loading up an existing 120 film spool means that there is no need of any adapters and is possible to change the roll when you are out shooting, where using the adapters you have to be in a dark room (or use a dark bag) to remove the exposed  film. Loading the 120 film spool can be a bit tricky and it requires a dark room, but if you are careful is not too bad.

Spooling 35mm film

Once the 120 paper roll is unwound, I mark the start and the end of where the 35mm film will with a piece of masking tape. As in the picture here below, the start of the film can be taped in the light but the end must be done in the dark room, so the tape previously put in place helps when in the dark to locate the place I have to cut the film and tape it in place.

Positioning the 35mm roll at the start of the 120 roll

I also put a couple of little wings on the ends of the tape – this helps me find the edge so I can peel the tape off easier when I come to develop the film later.

I am also very careful to position the film in the centre of the black paper.

I then prepare another stripe of masking tape with the two little wings at the ends ready to move into the dark room to unroll the rest of the film.

If you do this yourself, don’t forget you will need scissors to cut the film too!

In the dark I found it challenging to keep a good tension rolling the film. It was also hard to judge that I was rolling it up in centre of the black paper. It was just a matter of concentration and being calm.

When I arrive at the end and I can feel the final stripe of masking tape, is time to cut the film and tape it in place with the strip of previously prepared masking tape.

At this point I double check the tension and secure the roll with an elastic band around it.

As a reference a roll of 120 is roughly 82cm long, with a roll of 36 exposures I obtained two rolls of 120.

Job done! It is more difficult to describe than to do. With a bit of care I prepared a couple of rolls in 20 minutes the first time, so it was time to shoot.

The Results

Using this process, I shot a roll of Ilford Hp5 (developed in ID-11) and a roll of Tri-x (developed in HC-110).

As soon as I got the rolls out of the tank, I noticed that I didn’t waste a lot of film. If you use the adapters (depending also on the camera you are using) is easy to waste a good chunk of film because 120 film has the paper leader. This is one of the reasons why I wanted to go on the route of re-loading the 120 roll instead of using the adapters.

Here below is a photo of two stripes of film out of the tank.

As a first time I was quite pleased with the outcome. I managed to shoot 11 frame per roll. Here below some images from the roll of HP5.

Because in the Yashica 124G the film runs vertically, I had to consider that all the images where in portrait orientation. It is fair to say that when I wanted to shoot in landscape orientation, I had to guess the composition more. It is quite difficult to look into viewfinder from the side without a tripod.

That said, the composition is always a guess. First of all you have to hope that the film is centred on the paper roll and then is difficult to imagine where the sprocket holes are going to be in the end because even if you assume that the film is centred, it is not always straightforward to estimate where the image is going to finish.

Another thing to bear in mind is  that you need to make the image straight in camera. If the image is not straight, you can’t rotate/crop in post process because if you do that the result will be a straight image with wonky sprocket holes, which doesn’t look great.

Here below some images from the roll of Tri-X

Another thing I found I needed to consider is the scanning process. In “auto” mode, the scanner freaks out as it tries to compensate for the black holes. The result is that the images will be very light. In order to avoid this, I used the auto settings in just a portion of the images and then switched to manual in order to enlarge the scanning window including all the portion of image I wanted including the sprocket holes.

All the process was a bit laborious and required a bit of patience but at the end it was a lot of fun and I am pleased with the results. It is something I will definitely explore more.

If you fancy, you can check out my Instagram or twitter.
You can read more about my journey into shooting film here.


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23 thoughts on “Loading 35mm into 120 Camera (Without Adapters) – By Andrea Bevacqua”

  1. Well done Andrea, good effort and good results. Just wondering, have you considered making your spooling easier by trying Ortho film, which I believe can be handled in the darkroom with the (correct) red safelight left on? Cheers, Rock

    1. Andrea Bevacqua

      Hi Rock,
      thanks. I did not consider it because unfortunately my “dark room” is basically a cabinet where I store luggages & co. 🙂 but you are right. That could be an easier option!

      Thanks for the comment.


  2. Good article – I do it the same way and I’ve been thinking since last summer that I’ll write about it, but you beat me to it, haha!

    If you’re using adaptors (which I also tried, before switching to the backing-paper method), the leader wastage problem is relatively easy to fix – you can attach a piece of film or paper (of the right length of course) to the 35mm film leader. But there’s also some wastage between frames. This is because the 35mm film doesn’t have backing paper, so it’s more “tightly wound”; advancing pulls out more film than needed, especially as you get to the end of the roll. This too can be dealt with if your camera has a 220 film setting (my MF cameras don’t).

    The other issue with using adaptors is that on some older cameras (like the Agfa Record, one of the cameras on which I’ve done this), the film advance doesn’t have a hard stop; you simply wind forward it until you see the next frame number through a little window in the back, and then stop. This makes the adaptor method essentially a no-go; you need the backing-paper numbers.

    1. Ah Sroyon, beaten on time! ????
      Yeah, I thought about the 220 film setting. This could be another test.

      You are right about the older cameras. I did not think about it.


  3. Great article!

    I tend to use a ‘folder’ for these as it is slightly easier to cope with horizontal shots. Other things to consider are: Cheaper 35mm film (such as Foma or Kentmere) tends to have less writing in the perforations area – and if you can find a folder that winds the firm from left to right, you get the wording the right way up by default. Spacing is an issue – I tend to mark the wind on knob with a pencil mark and make sure that it does two full rotations (although towards the end of the roll 1.5 may be OK).

    One way of coping with the straightness problem is to deliberately put your pictures ‘on the wonk’.

      1. Andrea Bevacqua

        Yes, you are right but to be honest, I like the look of the writing on the edges. It add even more caracter to me.

  4. Nice! For masking tape, you might want to try the Tamiya brand. It’s made for painting scale models, sticks well but peels off much easier than any regular masking tape I ever try, and leaves no residue, even after over a decade in position. Comes handy for a lot of things, among other camera repairs 🙂

    1. Andrea Bevacqua

      Hi Gil,
      I think it is a different and nice way to look at the same image. Even if the sprocket holes have nt been exposed (so they are completely black) I think that sometimes it is kind of cool.
      I want to try the same concept on a 6×9 camera I have got. Landscapes and streetscapes must look good on this even larger format 🙂

      1. Or if you are really adventurous, a 6×12 back on a large format camera for super panoramic aspect ratios (4 or 5 to 1).

        1. Andrea Bevacqua

          James, this is very tempiting…the only prblem is that I don’t have a large format camera 🙂
          I have to work on it 😉


  5. Thanks for posing this Andrea. It’s interesting you should be experimenting with this as I have been considering panoramic shots on 35mm film including sprocket holes within the exposure. I’ve gone the Sprocket Rocket route, and have hacked the camera by removing the plastic lens which although works and produces stylish shots, you have to accept distortion and other image quality issues as part of the look, so I’ve replaced it with a cheap medium format lens. I am currently waiting for the negatives to be returned – could be a disaster but fingers crossed it might work.

    1. Charles,thanks for your comment.
      Yes, I guess the Sprocket Rocket would be another way of obtaining the same feature and I am very interested about the results. Please share them!
      As I said before, I want to try the 6×9 camera I have got because landscapes in it must be impactful.


  6. This is brilliant! I hadn’t considered the idea of using my old backing paper in this way. I’ve thought about trying the adaptors (admitedly I’ve not looked too far into it at all) but I think this is the way I would go now that I’ve read your article.

    Thank you for sharing!

  7. Outstanding job on this article. I ran 35mm in my Rolleicord and the cartridge fits perfectly in the bay without adaptors. there are big gaps between the images though. love your images

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